Getting A Piece Of The Pie……
“So perhaps we can help with your little project…”, purred the intriguing and smartly dressed agent in her exotic accent while snapping open a metal briefcase to reveal stacks of crisp bundled $20 bills. OK, that James Bond fantasy never actually happened and remains unfulfilled to this day. But we did sit across the desk last week from a helpful agricultural agent who offered planning and cost-sharing assistance for improvement of our sustainable farming practices at Cloverbud Ranch in the six-figure range over a 4-year fulfillment period.
The NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) is a funding and technical support arm of the USDA tasked with helping farmers identify and implement responsible practices for long-term environmental benefit. The agency invests in producers looking to improve their land and mitigate negative impacts to water and wildlife through EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Program). Farm operations can improve efficiency and turn “doing the right thing” into marketing gold by connecting effectively with people in the community interested in local sourcing of high-integrity produce and protein.
Farmers access this funding by committing to a number of goals made clear through a study and planning process guided by a team of specialists (soil agronomist, grazing planner, biologist). The group arranges a visit to a qualifying site (farming operation must be established and meet size / value requirements) and gathers information that will determine the outline of a farm plan that works within the site’s unique opportunities and constraints. Work items that fulfill plan components are cost-shared at 70% or more following completion and field review of the task.
Our goal of raising top-quality 100% grass-fed beef in a manner that improves the soil without risk of overgrazing (prevent erosion) led us to arrive at a target of 40 head in a mixed-weight stocker operation (currently at 25). No breeding due to building and management needs that are not possible on this property. The animals will be rotationally grazed through 11 paddocks of 3 acres each on the southern section. The mob & move concept assures fuller utilization and effective manuring of available grass compared with free grazing a large field. Cattle will be moved every three days giving sections 30 days of recovery / regrowth.
Pastures will be renovated with NRCS support to improve long-term grazing value. EQIP will help pay for (1) purchase and application of lime to raise soil pH, (2) custom pasture seeding blend with legumes and mix of warm & cool-season grasses and (3) permanent high-tensile electric fencing. There is also support for eradication of invasive plants like bittersweet and memorial rose (a big challenge approached with a combination of physical removal, herbicide and fire). 20 acres to the north will be maintained as a hayfield mown in the summer for winter hay supply and available for extra grazing in drought conditions if paddocks are not sufficiently recovered after 30 days.
A 35-acre uphill strip on the east lies far from our water supply in the southwest corner. It is important songbird habitat favored by the regionally threatened bobolink, a beautiful grassland-nesting denizen of high meadows that migrates to the pampas of Patagonia in the winter. We will put this section into the delayed-mow program that pays us for cutting only after August 15th giving the birds a chance to successfully raise their clutch. Our animals can fall-graze the area if a water solution is worked out but 12 of those acres will be designated as pollinator habitat where we will establish a special wildflower and native grass mix and from which animals will be permanently excluded.
Choose a Cloverbud Ranchshare and enjoy the grass-fed meat, eggs and organic vegetables grown on our Portsmouth property. You will be included in our monthly cookouts, demos, bird walks and social events that connect you with folks committed to the success of local sustainable agriculture.
Cloverbud Starter Share for $500 – 10 lbs. Grass-Fed Ground Beef, 10 lbs. Grass-Fed Steak (mix of sirloin, T-Bone, Ribeye, Kabob cubes), 3 Whole Pastured Chickens (choose when you want them), 3 lbs. Free-Ranged Heritage Pork Bacon, 3 dozen Free-Ranged Eggs (choose when you want them), 3 Veggie Boxes (you choose weeks), 3 Herb or Flower Bouquets (choose when you want them), 1 lb. Jar of Wildflower Honey.
We also have scaled up Ranch Share ($1000) and Boss Share ($1750) with greater savings – i.e. larger multipliers applied with each category. Email for more info to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
Respecting the Protein, MB